RSC - Advancing the Chemical Sciences


Organic food is healthier and safer than food produced conventionally

Many in the public perceive organic food as the healthy option. However, organo-sceptics argue that organic food may not be as safe as we think.

  • The public's viewpoint is based on the fact that no synthetic pesticides or fertilisers are used in organic agriculture leading to the assumption that no pesticide residues are present on the products. Without the use of pesticides, organic crops develop a natural defence mechanism in the form of chemicals all called phenols. The organic supporters claim that these chemicals are antioxidants and that organic fruit and vegetables are better at protecting the body from cancers and heart disease. Organic-sceptics argue that these natural pesticides may be a potential health risk and insist that there is no evidence to show health gains from organic food. The lack of evidence, however, may be due to the difficulty in conducting such a study.

  • The use of manure as a fertilizer in organic farming leads to fears of contamination of produce with bacteria such as E. coli which could lead to food poisoning. However, it has been shown that by composting the manure for a precise time at an exact temperature, the amount of bacteria present is greatly reduced. As long as these conditions are adhered to, the risk of food poisoning is kept to a minimum.

  • Another significant concern regarding organic farming is the contamination of produce with toxic substances produced by moulds called mycotoxins. There is a greater chance of crops being vulnerable to moulds if they are damaged by insects or weather. The organic lobby argues that although less effective fungicides are used in their farming methods, organic produce is less prone to fungal attack as crops are not fed with chemicals known as nitrates which may make plant cells in conventional crops more vulnerable to fungal growth.

Related Links

Link icon Myth and Reality, Organic vs Non- organic
Further information about the health and safety of organic food

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